10th Annual United States Golf Teachers Cup
HARMAN CAPTURES FIFTH
US GOLF TEACHERS CUP
No, he’s not on the same level as Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, or Tiger Woods. But Mark Harman does have something in common with these great golf champions.
He often finds a way to win when he has a chance.
Harman captured his fourth United States Golf Teachers Cup championship in five years, and his fifth overall, in a three-hole playoff over Thomas Wartelle at The Quarry Golf Club in San Antonio in October. To date, no one else has won more than one national championship, leading USGTF president Geoff Bryant to conclude that Harman’s mark may never be broken .
With sunny skies, temperatures around 80° and gentle breezes, weather conditions were nothing short of perfect at The Quarry for the 10th annual US Cup. A record field of 120 participants teed it up for a record purse of $25,000 in four divisions.
Establishing a theme that would have them linked throughout the tournament, Harman and Wartelle both opened with 1-under par rounds of 70 that put them one shot ahead of Perry Rende and 19-year-old Adam Sperry. Ron Longoria was another stroke back at 72, along with William Zachary, who played out of the Super Senior division. Defending champion Dave Belling, who struck the ball superbly but struggled with his putter, lurked three shots back with a 73, as did Trinidad’s Christopher Richards and Jerry Moore, also a Super Senior.
Round two saw some back-and-forth for the lead. Sperry fired a front nine 33 to take the lead at -2, but three consecutive bogeys to open the back nine sealed his fate. Jason Parker, playing several groups ahead of the leaders, then tied Harman for the lead at -1, but started giving shots back on the final holes and fell out of contention.
Knowing he probably needed an eagle on the par-5 18th hole, Belling went for the green in two, but three shots later his par left him at +2 for the tournament. There was further drama on the final hole as Wartelle had a 12- foot birdie putt to win the championship, but his ball slid by the hole and he and Harman finished regulation play tied at even-par 142.
Instead of sudden death, a three hole playoff was instituted by tournament director Cole Golden. Starting on the 16th hole, Harman made par while Wartelle bogeyed. It was an error from which Wartelle did not recover, and two holes later Harman had his fifth USGTF national championship.
Wartelle’s runner-up finish was his highest since he finished tied for second in the 2000 US Cup. While an accomplished player in his own right, work obligations curtailed his ability to focus on his game in previous years. He found some time in 2005 to practice and play, and should be a force in this championship for years to come.
Ron Platz, after a several-year absence from USGTF competition, won the Senior Division with 74-76 – 150, besting Jeff Bates and John McGaugh by two strokes.
Jerry Moore, while falling just short of winning the overall championship, successfully repeated as Super Senior champion with scores of 73-73 – 148. Joe Bernat and William Zachary tied for second at 148.In the women’s division, perennial contender Anna Yu finally broke through and won her first title with scores of 75-76 – 151. Deanna Freeman took second with 83-78 – 161.
A GRADUAL ASCENT.
It might surprise most people to know that Harman’s prowess on the golf course happened relatively late in life. Starting the game at age 12 in Indiana, he played high school and college golf, but never saw much success. In four years of collegiate play at NAIA-level Franklin College, Harman never once averaged under 80.
After graduation, he went to work as a computer programmer and collector for Chase/Clark Credit Company in Michigan. Golf was never far from his mind, and he played whenever he could. Realizing he wanted a career that he truly enjoyed, Harman quit to become a golf professional. His first job was teaching beginners with The Florida Golf School.
“I had a lot of good mentors there,” said Harman. “When I started teaching more advanced players, I was never out of my element because the other teachers were so helpful.”
By this time his golf game continued to improve, albeit slowly. Whereas in college competition he only occasionally broke 80, he could now shoot pretty consistently in the upper 70’s. Still, that didn’t foreshadow any future success.
“Mechanically my swing was improving, but mentally I was horrible,” related Harman. “Frankly, I choked a lot. When I met Gregg Steinberg, he completely changed my mental game.” Dr. Steinberg today is the USGTF’s sport psychology consultant, and is becoming very prominent from a national standpoint. But, back then, he was a graduate student still finding his way.
In 1995, at the age of 33 and at the urging of Steinberg, Harman decided the only way he was going to improve as a competitor was to play in more competitions. By the end of the year he was consistently finishing in the money on the Emerald Coast Golf Tour, a mini-tour located in the Florida Panhandle. Since then, he’s played fairly well in most competitions he’s entered.
FINDING A WAY TO GET IT DONE.
Harman isn’t the longest hitter or the best iron player the USGTF has. His average drive is only around 250 (very short by today’s standards for a scratch player), and he often struggles to reach double digits in greens in regulation. T h e re may be those whose short games are better. But Harman’s mini-tour days gave him some great insight how good players shoot good scores .
“The main thing I noticed is that the good players seemed to make the one shot necessary to make a par,” he said. “All you need is a good approach, chip, or putt. You don’t need all three, and you don’t need to be perfect. It’s more about hanging in there than anything.”
MORE HARMAN VICTORIES NOT A GIVEN.
At the closing banquet, Harman told his fellow participants that this might be the last time they saw him up on the dais as the US Cup champion.
“I was serious when I said I may never win again,” he stated. “The competition is not only getting better, but deeper. I think we had more people in contention on the back nine than ever before.”
“Being familiar with the personal work ethics of both Mark Harman and Thomas Wartelle, it was not surprising to me that these two individuals reached the playoff,” said USGTF president Bryant.
He also looks forward to the US Cup’s future, where he sees not only the competition, but the event itself, continuing to grow.
“The United States Golf Teachers Cup has evolved into the nation’s premier annual event for golf teaching professionals,” Bryant continued. “To play and compete against your peers from around the country is a very unique experience. Those who play are very fortunate, indeed, to experience this special event.”